Blackburn × Bicycle Nomad
Blackburn Design and Erick Cedeño of Bicycle Nomad have partnered with a commitment to encourage inclusivity within the cycling industry. We caught up with Erick to learn more about his plans as the latest Blackburn Design Ambassador…
Photos courtesy of State Bicycle Co.
I first met Erick Cedeño while scouting The Fool’s Loop, which starts and ends from The Velo and Bicycle Nomad Cafe in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting him knows he’s an extremely personable guy. He went out of his way to help with the logistics of my route scouting mission. Although his Bicycle Nomad Cafe has since closed its doors, I was happy to hear that Blackburn Design and Erick’s company, Bicycle Nomad, had partnered to promote inclusivity and representation in the cycling industry. I can’t think of a better person for the job. I gave Erick a call to get an update on things and to learn more about his role and goals as a Blackburn Design Ambassador. Find that below, followed by Blackburn’s press release.
What’s the story behind Bicycle Nomad?
Erick: Bicycle Nomad came from my experience of traveling by bicycle. I started doing tours about 12 or 13 years ago, but it was sparked by a particular trip I took in 2014 from New Orleans to Niagara Falls, where I wanted to retrace the Underground Railroad route by bicycle. A lot of my friends and family were like, “Oh, you can’t do that. That’ll be a dangerous trip.” What they were talking about was as a person of color traveling through the South, I’d encounter racism or people would harm me along the way. They were very concerned. I took off anyway and somewhere around the middle of the trip I encountered so much kindness. I’d pull up to a gas station and people would ask where I was riding and where I was coming from. People wanted to treat me for lunch, take me out to dinner, or buy me some sweet iced tea. There was a lot of kindness along the way. I remember one guy who offered me $20 to pay for my camping fees that night. I wondered why friends and family didn’t want me to travel. I understood their concerns, but they hadn’t ever done it. I wondered if I could motivate or inspire people to travel by bicycle. Immediately I thought, why don’t I create an entity that’s called Bicycle Nomad to inspire people to travel by bicycle? That has been the mission for Bicycle Nomad from the beginning.
As a person of color, I don’t see representation in magazines or marketing within the cycling industry. Personally, I don’t need representation to do whatever I want to do, and that’s just because of the way I was raised. But not everyone was raised this way. Two years ago I was a speaker at the Youth Bike Summit, and after my talk two kids came up to me. They were about 15 or 16 year-old. They said, “I loved what you did, but that’s a white man’s hobby.” And I told them, “Oh no it’s not! Anyone can do it.” But I knew where they were coming from. If you scroll through Instagram and look at some of the top brands, they don’t have a lot of representation of people of color. So, how can a kid from Oakland or Miami see themself traveling by bike? My mission has always been to promote diversity, especially through bike travel. I just want more representation, and that’s the platform for Bicycle Nomad.
Is better representation in media enough?
Erick: I think we have to start somewhere. We’re playing catch up in the cycling industry, and yeah, it’s going to take a lot more. Kids from underserved communities see athletes like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, and now more kids are playing tennis. It takes representation for people to think, “Oh, I could do that!” But to answer your question, no. It’s going to take more than that because a lot of kids from underserved communities have parents who are working two jobs to pay the rent, and they can’t really afford to buy an expensive bike, and bags, and lights to get out on a bike trip. Sometimes it takes companies to give them the freedom to provide those opportunities. When Blackburn first reached out to me it wasn’t about Bicycle Nomad, it was about reaching out to these underserved communities, assisting with programming, and bringing these kids out on their first overnight bike trip. When you take a kid from an underserved community, where they think that is their whole world, and you take them somewhere else, you open their horizons. They start dreaming. It’s about developing young kids to be better adults and better human beings.
What sparked the initial conversation with Blackburn regarding a partnership?
Erick: Back in 2015, Blackburn created the Blackburn Rangers program. I actually applied in 2015, the first year, and I didn’t get it. One of my friends was like, “I wonder if you didn’t get it because you’re black?” I thought, no I don’t think so, but now I’m wondering. Every year they have a new lineup and it was always the same. No diversity. In 2017, same thing. Then 2018, no diversity. Every time they announced their new Rangers, from 2015 to 2019, I would comment on their posts. I would say, “You guys are missing out.” It had nothing to do with me, but I just wanted people of color to have the same opportunity. My comments were ignored. I never got a response from Blackburn. Until this year, when I got an email from Blackburn and it went something like this: “Hey Erick, because we didn’t reply to your comments or emails, we’re part of the problem. We want to know what we can do to make it better. How can we change the face of cycling?” The director of marketing personally apologized and we set up a call for later that week. This was about three months ago, and we’ve literally had phone conversations every Wednesday to brainstorm ideas of different things we can do in the industry to make change.
What do you hope to achieve with the partnership?
Erick: I’ll be reaching out to a few of these non-profits to see what we can do to support them. Do they need more bikes? Do they need bags, lights? I’ll be flying out to different locations to run bike clinics and maybe get some of these kids out on bikes. It goes way beyond social media and me posting every Wednesday on Blackburn’s feeds. I commend Blackburn for putting their money where their mouth is.
Blackburn Design, Bicycle Nomad Announce Partnership
Blackburn Design and Bicycle Nomad are excited to formally announce a partnership with the founder of Bicycle Nomad, Erick Cedeño, becoming a Blackburn Brand Ambassador.
The discussion of the partnership was born out of an Instagram comment wherein Cedeño encouraged the 45-year-old cycling accessory brand to be more inclusive in its messaging and marketing materials. The comment began a month’s conversation between Cedeño and Blackburn Marketing Manager, Dan Powell.
“I knew enough to ask for help,” Powell said. “I reached out to Erick and put it out there that we wanted to make a commitment towards being more inclusive. Erick was kind enough to, number one, make time for me and number two, approach our willingness to change in a supportive way. He helped foster the spark.”
Founded in 2014 after a tour on the Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) Underground Railroad Route, Bicycle Nomad began as a way for Erick Cedeño to connect with people as he rode. “My mission has always been to inspire and motivate people to explore and travel by bicycle, especially people of color,” added Cedeño about the partnership. “The bicycle has changed my life. As a child riding was the first time I discovered freedom. It has connected me with communities and people from all over the world. I believe better representation will allow more people to visualize what’s possible and how far the bicycle can take them.”
Bicycle Nomad will be supplementing Blackburn’s social posts with inspiring content. He’ll also bring Blackburn followers along with him on trips that he has planned, starting with the return to the ACA’s Underground Railroad Route in October and on a ride around Puerto Rico in December. Lastly, Bicycle Nomad will be representing Blackburn at events like the Youth Bike Summit and helping the brand to identify and support grassroots organizations in historically underserved cycling communities.
“The cycling industry needs to have more representation in its marketing, so adults and, more importantly, children, can see themselves on a bike exploring their city, their country and their world,” Cedeño adds. “I have a passion to work with kids to bring the next generation of Bicycle Nomads. For children of underserved communities to have the opportunity to expand their horizon and to start dreaming of bicycle adventures.”